COVINGTON -- County commissioners denied a conditional-use permit for a canine training school Tuesday night after receiving a petition from more than 100 citizens who said they are opposed to the facility being located in a residential area.
Applicant Ekundayo Ade said he is a former law enforcement official with 30 years experience in training canines. Ade has built a training facility at his property on 240 Ga. Highway 213, an area zoned agricultural residential.
Ade said he planned to train dogs using a course with jumps and obstacles and have competitions at the site. Training would take place three days a week, with five to seven dogs participating in hour-long sessions throughout the day, and would not go past 5:30 p.m., he said.
But neighbors said they fear the dogs, which include pit bulls and Rottweilers, could escape, as the property is not fenced, and harm someone. Teresa Jones said a pit bull has already showed up on her back step.
"We're scared for our lives. Our grandchildren can't go in our back yard," she said.
Ade said a pit bull roaming the neighborhood wasn't his and that his neighbors have started a smear campaign against him and implied that it was racially motivated.
"My wife is frightened by my neighbors, as she should be. I'm not intimidated that easily," Ade said. "These people need to realize that we are 160 years past this behavior as they have cosmetically presented it ... Certain Georgians are not comfortable with the evolution of things."
Brooks Cunard, representing the residents opposed to the petition, said neighbors have nothing against Ade.
"We're not arguing that he's not a good person or a good trainer. We just don't want this in our neighborhood," he said.
Ade's training course is adjoined by 17 residential properties, and Cunard said residents are afraid their children could be in harm's way. He brought up a recent incident in which a local woman was attacked by a family member's pit bull that had no history of being aggressive.
But Ade said pit bulls and Rottweilers get a bad reputation from the media aimed at "selling newspapers," noting that cocker spaniels actually are the worst breed when it comes to biting.
Ade said handlers will be responsible for keeping the dogs on site. While he acknowledged that a dog could run away at any time, he said it hasn't happened once to him during his 30 years of training experience.
"Any of the dogs who have come into this facility could come into this courthouse today," he said.
Though neighbors allege he is currently keeping dogs on his property, and has been operating without a business license for nine months, Ade said he is not open for business and said he has no plans to board dogs overnight.
Neighbors have also complained of odor coming from six Porta-Johns on Ade's property, which he denied. Asked by Commissioner Nancy Schulz why he had so many Porta-Johns, Ade responded that he purchased two and was given four for free. He said up to 80 people might attend a competition at the site.
Commissioner Tim Fleming made the motion to deny the conditional use permit based on the grounds that it was incompatible with adjacent property and property in the same zoning district; would unduly increase traffic and have adverse impacts on adjacent properties due to noise and the manner of operation.
The motion was approved 3 to 2, with Commissioners Earnest Simmons and J.C. Henderson opposed.